Also Known As
Cottontails [In Australia, 5]
Field Snake Cotton [Florida and Texas - 7]
Large Cottonweed [1]
Plains Snakecotton [2, Florida and Texas - 7] ]
Snake-Cotton [2]
Wild Cotton [Alabama - 7]
There are eight synonyms listed on website. 

Order:   Caryophyllales
Family:   Amaranthaceae
Genus:    Froelichia
Species: floridana

Florida n c s

Edible Parts
Other Uses
You may often encounter this somewhat unusual native member of the Amaranth family in sandhills, scrub, or disturbed open areas. The white floral spikes are noticeably cottony. The leaves often have white cobwebby hairs on them when young. Occasionally, the stems have noticeable swollen red nodes, especially near the base. It is found in most counties statewide, and is listed as "rare" in south Florida. I came across it being mentioned briefly as a diuretic in a 1906 University of Florida Agricultural Experiment Station Bulletin. I have found only one other, somewhat wimpy mention of its medicinal uses here in Florida in 1940 by Hocking [1997], via Daniel Austin, but no details relating to its use is given. This plant contains phytoecdysteroids and since these compounds repel insects, I advise that you DO NOT ingest it. 

DO NOT CONSUME: Although this species has been briefly mentioned as a possible diuretic herb, little is really known about it. That, coupled with the fact that it contains phytoecdysteroids that repel insects, we should avoid ingestion. CONSERVATION STATUS: This native plant is rated as "rare" by the IRC [south Florida status}. [4] 
MEDICINAL USES: I came across it being mentioned briefly as a diuretic in a 1906 University of Florida Agricultural Experiment Station Bulletin. Additionally, and this is a bit sketchy, but Daniel Austin writes [in Florida Ethnobotany}: "It was apparently a personal observation by Hocking [1997] reported the plant being used in domestic medicine in Redbay, Florida [see note below] in 1940, unfortunately, he gave no details." [7] ANDY'S NOTE: Redbay is near Defuniak Springs in the Florida panhandle.
CHEMICAL CONSTITUENTS: A 2009 article entitled Ecdysteroids and a Sucrose Phenylpropanoid Ester from Froelichia floridana in Phytochemistry stated, "Phytoecdysteroid glycosides (1–5) and a phenylpropanoid ester of sucrose (6) were isolated from the whole plant of Froelichia floridana, along with eight known compounds including three ecdysteroids (7–9), four flavonoids (10–13), and one phenolic compound (14). Structures were determined using a combination of spectroscopic techniques." [12]
ANDY'S NOTE CONCERNING ECDYSTEROIDS: They actually mean phytoecdysteroids - Phytoecdysteroids "appear in many plants mostly as a protection agents (toxins or antifeedants) against herbivore insects." [13] 

NATIVE TO: The U.S., from New York to the Great Lakes, south to New Mexico, east to Florida. [3]
HABITAT: Regional Conservation lists is a occurring in disturbed upland, mesic flatwoods, sandhill, scrub, and scrubby flatwoods. [4] Also found in "sandy coastal areas." [2] "Sandy open ground, streambanks, gravel bars, railroads." [6]
INVASIVE IN AUSTRALIA: It is invasive in parts of Australia. [5]
ANDY'S NOTE: It also grows in Hungary. [5]
FIRE ECOLOGY: "Occasional wildfires are probably beneficial in reducing the encroachment of herbaceous perennials and woody vegetation." [1]
DESCRIPTION: A summer annual herbaceous wildflower. [2]
HEIGHT: 3-6' tall. [2] 18-36" tall. [1,5]
STEM: "The central stem is erect, stout, terete, and covered with fuzzy hairs that are white, gray, or brown." [1] Wiry. [5] It is "either unbranched or very sparingly branched." [1,5] "Slightly swollen at base." [1] The "stems have prominent red nodes," especially near the base.
LEAVES: Illinois Wildflowers gives us a good description of the leaves, "Opposite leaves occur along the lower one-third of the stem. The leaves are up to 4" long and ¾" across. They are narrowly elliptic to elliptic or narrowly oblanceolate to oblanceolate in shape; their margins are smooth. At the base, the leaves are sessile or they have short petioles; their outer tips are blunt. The upper leaf surface is medium green, white along the margins, and sparsely covered with silky hairs. The lower leaf surface is pale green and more densely covered with silky hairs." [1] Leaves "silky, hairy, often covered by fine, cobwebby hairs when young." [10]
FLOWERSPIKES / FLOWERS: White, pink. [2] "The fused petals open into a small cream star with an orange-brown center at the opening." [10] Illinois Wildflowers writes, "Each spike is densely packed with white woolly flowers that are arranged in 5 spirals (if the spike is long enough to determine this). Individual flowers are initially conical in shape, but they soon swell to become shaped like a short vase with a short narrow neck. The exterior of the flower is dominated by a white woolly calyx that is about 4-6 mm. long and across at maturity. The calyx has 5 tiny teeth at its apex that are cream-colored or pink. Inserted within the apex of the calyx are 5 stamens and a style; there are no petals. The filaments of the stamens are joined together to form an inner tubular structure that contains the ovary (or seed capsule)." [1] "The terminal spike and its peduncle often lean to one side toward the apex of the plant." [1]
POLLINATION: "The flowers are probably wind-pollinated or self-fertile, rather than insect-pollinated." [1]
FLOWERING SEASON: July through August. [2]
CLOSE UP FLOWER PHOTO: To see a nice photo of the flower greatly magnified by Hugh Wilson [taken in Leon County, Texas] go to:
POLLEN PHOTO: To see a beautiful photo by T. Borsch of the pollen, go to:
FRUIT: "Each flower matures into a single-seeded cottony fruit that often develops a pair of crests along its lower sides. A crest consists of a succession of dentate teeth. The cottony fruits are blown about by the wind. The seeds are 1.0–1.5 mm. long, ovoid, somewhat flattened, and brown. The root system consists of a taproot. This wildflower reproduces by reseeding itself." [1]
RELATED SPECIES: There are seventeen Froelichia species species listed on This is the only species found wild in Florida.
LIGHT: Full sun. [1]
SOIL: "Sandy soil with sparse ground vegetation. Gravelly soil is also tolerated." [1]
WATER: It likes "dry conditions." [1]
INSECT PESTS: "The thrips, Haplothrips malifloris, feeds on the leaves of Large Cottonweed and similar species." [1]
ETYMOLOGY: "The genus name, Froelichia, honors Joseph Froelich, an 18th and 19th century German botanist of note." 

More Details

Flowering Calendar

Flower Color

Scrub Pine Flatwood Sandhills

Plant Form
Herbaceous Annual Herb
5 feet
Full Sun
Poor Sandy
Drought Tolerant

Sources for acquiring

ANDY'S NOTE: I have never seen or heard of it being cultivated. 


[4] Regional Conservation 
[7] Florida Ethnobotany 
[8] Flora of North America 
[9] inhs.illinois. edu [Illinois Natural History Survey] 
[12] [Article] Ecdysteroids and a Sucrose Phenylpropanoid Ester from Froelichia floridana, published in Phytochemistry [2009] 
[13] [Article] On the Distribution of Phytoecdysteroids in Plants". Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences, Dinan L, Savchenko T, Whiting P (2001) [via Wikipedia] 
Last Updated: November 20, 2017

Related Plants in Database

Also in Amaranthaceae
Atriplex cristata
Suaeda linearis